Christie Berkie has been a Camp Jamie volunteer since 2013 – the
year after her two oldest children attended as campers. “I saw the
difference in them, and I wanted a chance to say thank you.” Another
of our longtime volunteers, Nissa Quill, also decided to become a Big
Buddy because of her own experiences with grief and loss, “I know
firsthand how hard it is to go through the death of a loved one and I
wanted to help kids going through that,” and Zack Tinney is just
one of the people who volunteer because they attended Camp as a child
and experienced what a difference it made in their lives.
Although the spirit and many of the activities have remained the same,
in the past year volunteers like Christie, Nissa, and Zack have seen a
number of exciting additions to Camp.
One of these changes was the involvement of our music therapist, Georgia
Wells. Music, perhaps, invites an even deeper expression of emotion than
other creative methods of helping grieving children. According to Georgia,
music is “an accessible, relatable, safe, and nonthreatening”
way to explore and express difficult experiences, like grief. Georgia
helped the kids write an original song: “The Camp Jamie Jam,”
which included lyrics about remembering their loved ones, but also about
being strong and hopeful as they move forward in life.
Our staff and longtime volunteers were also eager to help create Hospice
of Frederick County’s first-ever Camp Jamie Day Camp, which presented
the opportunity for children and families uncomfortable with the idea
of a night away from home to still experience the benefits of Camp Jamie.
Camp Jamie has for years benefitted from visits with our “HosPet”
therapy dogs and alpaca, and at our one-day camp, the kids also got to
meet chickens, rabbits, and Icelandic horses. The horses are used for
Equine Assisted Learning (EAL), which uses horses to help participants
better understand how to more effectively behave and communicate in their
relationships with others. “I was surprised how quickly the campers
were able to adjust to the needs of the animals – and how they interacted
with them,” says volunteer Walter Hood, who knows that building
trust with a camper can sometimes be challenging, “it was like they
were telling their story to the animals too.”
Because children process their grief and communicate about their feelings
differently than adults, programs like music therapy and EAL are particularly
useful therapeutic tools. When children have the opportunity to talk about
their experiences while simultaneously engaging in an activity, kids often
“open up” more than they might in a traditional clinical setting.
One of Nissa’s favorite things about Camp Jamie is that it’s
“a place that makes people smile,” but Camp Jamie, whether
for one day or over an entire weekend, is more than just a fun experience
for kids. The activities, relationships, and focus on healthy coping all
cooperate to help develop a child’s resilience through grief and
loss. Camp Jamie aims to give kids the tools they’ll need to thrive,
even in the face of suffering; tools that can be used throughout their
lives. Christie says of her own children’s experience nearly seven
years ago: “Every time they go through a milestone that hurts, they
go back to those skills they learned at Camp Jamie.”
At Hospice of Frederick County we are always looking for ways to make each
camp even better than the last, because we know that Camp Jamie is more
than just a day or a weekend: Camp Jamie can transform a child’s
entire life – or a volunteer’s, for that matter.
This spring’s overnight camp will be held May 31st- June 2nd and
next fall’s day camp will take place on Saturday, September 28th.
Both camps are currently accepting applications for campers and volunteers.